(Working title: "Alternative Fiction Therapy.")

Disclaimers: Xena and Gabrielle and any other characters mentioned from the tv show are owned by Renaissance Pictures/Universal, no copyright infringement intended, no profit gained – I’m borrowing them only for fun blah, blah, blah.

Subtext: There’s no dressed up porn here, Apart from the last bit of dialogue, there’s nothing to follow that you haven’t seen on the show.

Other stuff: This story includes a few references to events taking place up to and including season five. Includes drug taking, a minimal smattering of strong language and merciless fun poking. If this is not to your taste or your sense of humour needs adjusting – don’t read .

Written by Jay – 2-10 December 2000, e-mail feedback good, bad or dangerous welcome. Go on, I dare you!

For Rachel.


Xena prodded the dying embers of the fire absent-mindedly with a short stick, watching the fading orange sparks flying up towards the sky through the mist of her own escaping breath.

There was nothing more intolerable than being unable to get to sleep when the person lying next to you was snoring their way through oblivion. Pulling the fur tighter around her body in a vain attempt to combat the cold, she glanced down at the peacefully slumbering bard who had not stirred for at least four hours.

Considering that dawn would be rapidly approaching, the weary warrior set the stick to one side and lay back on the ground with a huff. She knew that sleep would elude her again, as it had the past few nights, but she could at least try to relax.

Gabrielle had suggested various ridiculous treatments - including counting imaginary sheep and forcing Xena to drink heated milk – the most foul and noxious drink she had ever been subjected to. All to no avail.

There was no question. Something had to give. Either Xena had to fall asleep or she was going to go crazy.

She settled underneath the fur and wrapped her arm around her companion’s waist – eliciting a quiet but happy snort from the fair-haired one.

Her eyelids drooped lazily and she emitted a wistful sigh.

As her buzzing thoughts began to fade and merge together, she slowly lost awareness of her surroundings and felt herself drift.

An unconscious smile crept onto Xena’s face seconds before a nearby cock crowed. The grating sound was accompanied by the guttural snarl of the tortured woman who sat bolt upright tearing at clumps of her hair.

Gabrielle opened her eyes to behold the pathetic visage of her friend. Dark rings encircled her eyes and she was clearly in the clutches of despair.

"Oh Xena…still can’t sleep huh?"

She moved closer to the forlorn warrior, wrapping her arms around her slumped shoulders.

"Your muscles are all bunched up. How about a backrub?"

"Thanks, but …maybe later. I just don’t know what else I can do. We’ve tried every remedy we can think of and nothing works. I don’t know how much longer I can put up with this…"

Gabrielle moved to the other side of the fire and began to root around in her pack looking for something that would pass as breakfast. She pulled out a sorry looking piece of loaf.

"Well, we’re nearly out of food. So I suggest we take a trip into town later today. We can get you to a physician while we’re at it. I know you think they’re a bunch of quacks but it can’t hurt now can it?"

"Will you come with me?" Xena pleaded.

"I think I’d better."




They strolled into the town to find themselves faced with a busy market. The square positively buzzed with people clamouring around every stall, haggling over prices and looking for a bargain. As they neared the food stalls Gabrielle inhaled deeply, taking in the strong spicy aromas and feeling a little embarrassed as her stomach began to growl.

She spied a trader selling pieces of chicken and approached his stall, dragging the reluctant warrior behind her.

"What is this?" rumbled Xena, her face crumpling in question.

"Good morning ladies. I see you’re interested in the hassle-free approach to food! Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Bernardo Matthias. I pluck and gut these birds before I sell them, that way it saves my customers all the…unpleasantness of cooking. The meat is all chopped up, ready to go and it tastes beautiful - I promise it will halve your cooking time."

"Thanks, but I’ve never been one to shy away from a massacre" muttered the warrior before turning to leave.

"Xena, come on. It’s not like you ever go to the trouble of preparing our meals. This will make a nice change for me. Besides, it doesn’t look like we have much of a choice and I don’t want to have to do battle with any psycho bunnies anytime soon…", the blonde shuddered at the memory.

"Gabrielle, I hate chicken. It’s so dry. Last time we ate chicken I was picking it out of my teeth for days!", the taller woman sulked.

"So that’s what that was…"

Xena’s eyes narrowed quizzically.

"Besides which, I’ve already considered that. I have an idea. Trust me – this chicken wont be dry."

The warrior regarded her with a dubious cock of her eyebrow.

"Butter", the bard offered in explanation.


Gabrielle sighed with exasperation. "Did your mother not teach you anything?!"

"She taught me how to pull a pint."

"Excuse me?"

Xena rolled her eyes as though it were obvious. "Cows, Gabrielle, milking cows…"

The bard turned back to the trader shaking her head. "Yeah, we’ll take…four of those…pear shaped bits. Thanks. By the way, it’s a good idea you have here."

Bernardo Matthias nodded his head in appreciation, wrapped the meat and handed it to Gabrielle.

"Okay, lets go find your quack."




Xena approached the healer’s hut with a look of derision. Pulling the dusty curtain back over the entrance, she ushered Gabrielle inside.

The darkened hut smelled musty and all manner of strange potions were stacked up haphazardly on the shelves, with many plants and roots hanging from the ceiling.

"Ah! I have patients!" Exclaimed a small hunchbacked man scurrying into sight from behind a collection of jars.

"Actually, it’s just the one patient – I just brought along my friend here for support." Xena explained, eyeing the man curiously.

"My name is Pasteur, and before you ask, I have a bandage around my eyes because I am blind. Don’t worry though. My other senses are sharper than you’d believe and I have a hell of an instinct for this kind of work. Here, both of you have a seat, and help yourself to some of my special brew. It’s not medicinal, it’s just …refreshing."

Gabrielle grabbed a couple of tankards and filled them with the dark, strange smelling liquid. She hesitantly took a sip and nodded with approval encouraging Xena to try some too.

Pasteur pulled up a chair in front of them. "So, how may I be of assistance to you?"

"Ahem. Well, I’ve not been able to…I’ve been having some trouble getting to sleep for about the last five nights now. In fact, I’ve hardly slept at all. I’ve already tried everything we could come up with and I’m getting nowhere. I know this seems silly…" she snorted, trying to laugh it off.

"Not at all my child. Insomnia can be a very dangerous thing. It can put you at risk of injury during the day should you nod off unexpectedly, and if sleeplessness continues for much longer then…well, I wouldn’t like to say what might happen. I need to examine a few possibilities to ascertain the possible cause, and from there I can hopefully prescribe a cure. Have you perhaps had any head trauma recently?"


"Okay. I’d like to examine you anyway – in case you’ve taken any kind of knock you’re not aware of."

"Be my guest."

The old man prodded and rubbed Xena’s cranium vigorously, attempting to manipulate her skull as though it were a piece of clay. Gabrielle, smirking, tried to avoid the warrior’s scowl.

"Hmm. Everything seems to be in order there. Maybe there’s some other underlying cause.

Are there any…unresolved issues in your life that might be inducing stress?"

"No, no, I’m happy as Larry Hagman, thanks for asking."

The healer frowned in confusion.

"Travelling performer we ran into a while back in Spamona, had a thing for those big hats they all seem to wear in that town…never mind."

"Okay. How about your home life? Are you content at home? Is there a…troublesome husband maybe?"

Gabrielle choked on the brew she was sipping, which made a quick exit from her mouth and sprayed across the room as she gasped for breath.

Xena smiled sweetly, holding her index finger in front of her pursed lips indicating her partner should "Shush" so as not to distract the healer. "No, my er, home life is just peachy too", she responded through gritted teeth.

"Any kids perhaps, running riot?"

"I have two children. One is deceased – all issues there resolved, the other is…was a terror, but she’s calmed down no end. Difficult teenage years – you know."

"Hard to imagine you having a child that old. You sound so young yourself!"

"It’s a long story."

"Well, I have to admit that I’m at a bit of a loss. There are two things though, that I would like you to try. If these don’t work in a couple of days, be sure to come back and see me again. Firstly, I’d like you to read before you settle down for the night."

"Ah, I’m really not one for bedtime stories…."

"No, I insist. How about your friend? Maybe she has a liking for stories. You can read together, but I insist you try this out. If only until you’re cured."

Xena rolled her eyes in defeat as memories of the seemingly endless parables she had endured at Gabrielle’s whim came flooding back. "And the other?"

"I want you to use this. Where I come from it is called "l’ail". Effective in treating ailments when digested – you can see where its name is derived from. It smells somewhat …intriguing, but I can assure you – if this doesn’t work – nothing will."

The warrior took the small cloves from the healer, thanked him, and quickly stomped away from the hut with Gabrielle scampering along at her side trying to keep up.

"Xena, what is your problem? Come on, at least humour the guy. Nothing we’ve tried so far has helped you at all, trying out his suggestions isn’t going to hurt any!"

"I am NOT reading fairy stories to lull me to sleep – and have you smelled this stuff?! Put it in your pack. I’m not touching it, it stinks! We’ll just have to think of something else."

Gabrielle took the cloves eyeing them warily and then raised them to her nose surreptitiously when she was sure her grumpy cohort wasn’t watching. Her face wrinkled at the pungent aroma and she quickly buried them at the bottom of her pack.

Surveying the marketplace in front of them, one stall caught the blonde’s eye.

"Hey Xena, there’s a papyrus specialist over there! I could do with a few blank scrolls, and maybe we can find something for you…I mean us, to read that might help you to nod off. What do you say?"

"Go for it." muttered the warrior with absolute disinterest, trying unsuccessfully to stifle a yawn and rubbing at her sore eyes. She silently hoped she wasn’t going to have to spend the entire afternoon in this place, following her friend around while she "oo’d!" and "aah’d!" at every piece of coloured fabric or shiny trinket she set eyes upon without ever buying anything.

Sighing, she traipsed along behind her friend.



The stall owner sold a batch of blank scrolls to the unfamiliar young woman and kept an eye on her as she browsed through the rest of his stock, examining the titles.

"Hmm, ‘The betrayal and crucifixion of J.H.Christ’, been there, done that – not exactly light reading…", she muttered disregarding that one and tossing it aside.

"Is there something else I can help you with Miss?"

"I’m just looking for a good read. You see, my friend here is having trouble sleeping so we’re after a scroll or two to read late at night." She indicated the tired warrior who had at last appeared at her side. Xena bleakly regarded the mass of parchment in front of her, and propped herself against the wall thinking she had to sit down and rest before she fell over.

The trader considered the two women for a moment and then said with a knowing smirk, "Your friend there does seem kind of worn out. I think I have just what you’re looking for…" Reaching behind him, he presented Gabrielle with four large scrolls tied together with a pink ribbon. "Take a look at these, I don’t think you’ll have any complaints!"

Gabrielle took one from the batch, unwound it, and began to read. She was surprised to see her name and Xena’s within the text, which was definitely not in her own handwriting. Frowning, she read a bit further. "Xena, I think you’d better take a look at this…we’ve never been to Eressos!"

The warrior cast her eyes over the text for a few moments and then, surprisingly alert, she lunged at the trader grabbing him by the throat. "Where did you get these from? Have you got anymore stashed behind there?"

"What the…?!" gargled the trader, gasping for air and struggling to free himself from her grip as her eyes blazed dangerously at him.

"What are you doing?" cried Gabrielle, swatting at her friend’s arm.

The dark haired woman released her grip on the hapless man, apologising sheepishly. "Sorry about that, I’m a little…tetchy, you understand."

He rubbed his throat and took a step backwards. This woman was clearly insane.

"I got them from a travelling bard – I, I don’t remember their name…they’re the only ones I have right now. Thing is, they’re everywhere, and they sell like hot cakes! Most of my profit comes from those rather than anything else I sell, but please, take ‘em! Just don’t hurt me!"

Xena threw the man a warning look and picking up the scrolls, motioned to her friend, "Come on, we’re leaving.", before turning on her heel and stalking away. Gabrielle shrugged at the trader, and making sure Xena didn’t see her, gave him a few dinars for his trouble.

Gabrielle raced to catch up with her friend as she strode out of town.

"What the hell was that all about?!" she demanded to know.

Xena stopped dead in her tracks and whirled to face her companion, brandishing the scrolls in front of her.

"I’m not happy about people making tales up about us! You documented enough about our travels and I’m sure other people we’ve known have written a thing or two…I’ve heard about artistic license, but this! THIS! " Words failed her and she growled in frustration.

"What are you talking about? Nothing I read in there was familiar. I’m sure it’s just a bit of fun Xena, lighten up…"

The warrior’s face darkened. "A bit of fun? Well we’ll see how you feel about it shall we? We’re going to get back to camp and see what else is in these scrolls…and don’t give me that smug look!"

"You’re overreacting. You need to catch a few Z’s. I’ve never seen you this irritable." Gabrielle watched with a bemused smile as the warrior wandered off muttering, "and to top it all off I have to eat chicken! Should go back and look for some toothpicks…"




Once back at the camp, Gabrielle took stock of their supplies and began preparing their meal while the moody warrior started the fire up again.

"There’s not much to go with this chicken since we clearly needed to leave in such a hurry," she announced, her voice positively dripping with sarcasm, "so salad will have to do. Do you think you could pass me that knife and the frying pan?"

"Ah. I see I’ve been promoted from your Appointed Champion to your Appointed Guardian Of Kitchenware huh?"

"I got you well trained, warrior princess!", Gabrielle confirmed with a self-satisfied smile. "Of course, I could always just skewer these things on my sais and hold them over the flames!"

"It’ll never catch on…" decided Xena, handing over the required items and returning to the fire.

The blonde sliced through the sides of two chicken breasts and stuffed them with butter. As an afterthought she retrieved the cloves from her pack and cut a small chunk from one of them hesitantly tasting it.

"Xena, come over here. Try some of this urb - what do you think?"


"I want you to taste this urb!"

Xena peered across at her friend to see her holding up the cloves the healer had given them.

"Oh, HERB! What, are you suddenly from Gaul or something? Don’t drop your aitches - I can’t understand you!" She took a tiny bite and considered it for a moment.

"It’s a little sharp, but cooking it might take the edge off. He did say I have to digest it, right? Anything that will make the meat less bland is more than welcome. "

The cloves ended up chopped into tiny pieces and stuffed into the chicken alongside the butter.

Satisfied with the now roaring flames, Xena approached her friend and the dead bird parts. Somehow it just wouldn’t be the same eating something she hadn’t gutted.

"Okay, lets have a look at those scrolls that have got me so wound up while we wait for these to cook.", she said pre-empting her friend.

The pair settled down close to the fire and began to read. Not a word passed between them as they soon became engrossed in the tales of their imaginary exploits, the only sound the crackling and sizzling of flesh.

The bard stopped for a moment to plate up their food and hand some to her friend.

"Hey, this doesn’t taste so bad! I’ll give you one thing – it’s not dry! Still smells like hell though…"

"I’ll take that as a compliment." Gabrielle replied with a wry grin. "So what is it that’s got to you about these stories? Most of them are a bit samey. We seem to celebrate winter solstice and get critically injured in every single one, and I know we didn’t actually do any of this adventure stuff, but I can’t see why you’re acting so defensive."

"I don’t know. It just feels weird. Like we’ve been used. Gabrielle, I feel so cheap!"

"I think you’re taking this way too personally. Looks like most of them were written while we were out for those twenty-five years. Maybe this is how people still know who we are today. After all this time, no matter where we go we do seem to have quite the following."

"But none of this is true!"

"Does it really matter? There’s nothing bad in here. Word of mouth and exaggeration is how legends are created. Do you really think Atlas carried the world on his shoulders? It was a metaphor! He was just a very troubled man, raving alcoholic and lots of gambling debts from what I heard - and that was probably all fabrication!"

"Okay, I can see your point. I don’t have to be happy about it though."

"It’s the terrible price of fame Xena!"

The bard cast her gaze once more on the parchment she was holding.

"Wait a second. Take a look here…it describes a strange ritual, and I mean strange with a capital everything, but according to this we both end up sound asleep. Want to give it a shot?"

"At this stage I’m prepared to try anything! It looks like we’re going to need some supplies though."

"Let’s do it!" exclaimed Gabrielle racing off to fetch her pack.




Xena paced back and forth desperately hoping that this last attempt would end with her being rendered unconscious as the fair-haired bundle of energy came charging back to the fire.

"Okay, we should do a checklist here, we don’t want anything to go wrong. You ready?"

No response.


"Oh, er, check."

"I hadn’t actually started yet…" Xena muttered to herself. "Black powder?"


"You know I told you to get rid of that stuff. Illicit weed lifted from the healer’s hut?"



"We have three buckets. Also there’s a creek right over there so water isn’t a problem."

"Fine then. As far as I can tell we’re all set. Wait a second, three buckets?"


"And all this stuff is out of your pack? The little shoulder bag you carry around?"


"What, is that like some magical storage shed once you put your hand inside? How on earth do you fit all this stuff in there?"

"Well you know Xena, we’ve been together for the last thirty-two years or so and you’ve never felt the need to question it before…"

"Fair point. I don’t think I want to know. I should warn you, it clearly states that during the ritual we ah, we have to kiss."

"Are you nuts? Have you smelled your breath since we ate?"

"Speak for yourself little miss halitosis. We can just leave it at a peck; it’s not specific after all. Most of the ritual is fairly vague so we’ll have to improvise. Let’s go and fill these buckets, we need everything to hand."

One quick trip to the creek later, the warrior and bard arranged piles of black powder a safe distance away from them on the opposite side of the fire, trailing a thin line of the substance to within arms reach which would then act as a fuse. They then settled back down onto the ground, sitting close and facing each other. Getting the kiss out of the way first, they leaned together for a quick peck on the lips, both grimacing at the rank stench.

"Right. Phase two. Pass me that honey."

Xena took the small pot of sweet-smelling golden gunge and began to smear it liberally all over Gabrielle’s hair. "Hey, we could almost make you hair stick up in spikes with this! Maybe beeswax would work better…" the warrior mused, unaware of her friend’s glowering.

"How come they don’t call you the ‘treacle-haired woman’? How come it always has to be me that gets covered in slime?"

"Well Gabrielle, because that’s what it says on the parchment! I’m not making this up - I’ve got it here all written down! Besides which, it looks so good on you!"

The blonde began to regret that she had ever suggested such a deranged course of action.

Xena rinsed her hands in one of the buckets and quickly dried them off. "Next step!" she announced with a smirk. She tore a strip of one of the discarded scrolls and set about packing it tightly with the stolen weed, and rolling it into a long thin tube.

"Right. It clearly states that after we’ve kissed, we lose all sense of time and reason. We could have done with some more of Pasteur’s special brew for that but this will have to do instead." She held a splint in the fire and then held the small flame to the end of her roll-up, taking a drag to ensure it was lit properly before handing it to the bard.

Gabrielle accepted the spliff, trusting her friend implicitly that this was necessary for the plan to work. She took long regular drags, inhaling deeply and holding her breath for as long as she could manage before exhaling again and passing the glowing tube back to Xena.

"How are you feeling?" Gabrielle heard the treacle-haired woman’s voice ask in the distance.

"A little light headed, and…have you got any chocolate? I think we should put something sticky on your head too… I mean, everything’s got to have its opposite hasn’t it? Tall and short, light and dark? Just to be fair like, we’re…equals now I’ll have you know! Cocky bitch…"

Spying the jar of honey, the blonde stuck two fingers in and scooped the remnants out, devouring the substance enthusiastically. "Mmm, sugar…have we got any more?" she asked, wide eyed, before flopping back to the ground.

Satisfied that the drug was having the desired effect, Xena finished it off and threw the stub in the fire.

"Gabrielle, sit up. That’s right, we’re not done yet. It says you have to stroke my centre in a circular motion…any ideas?"

"Yeah! Like…it’s that thing. You know!" The wavering blonde hoisted herself up off the floor and planting herself in front of her companion, began to rub Xena’s midriff whilst trying to pat her head at the same time. "The co-ordination thing!" she shrieked before collapsing with fits of giggles.

Xena shook with laughter as she tried to read the next stage of the ritual, her eyes streaming. Turning to see her friend convulsing on the floor, she leaned over and slid two fingers up the bards’ nostrils.

"Wha…whad do you dink your duid?!"

"I have to fill your orifices…!" the warrior explained, sniggering.

Gabrielle wriggled out of the way and lit the fuse to the black powder, resulting in a series of loud blinding explosions.

"It’s a shame Naima isn’t still around for the explosion of colours man, she could have done that freaky Mehndi light show thing with all those flying geometric shapes…"

"We could always just press our thumbs onto our eyelids for a while – that would work."

"Nah – crashing waves!" cried Gabrielle before bolting for the nearest bucket and hurling the wet contents unceremoniously over her friend, before receiving the same treatment herself.

Sinking to the floor they tried to catch their breath.

"That seems to be about it." Noted the warrior. "Think it’ll work?"

"I dunno. We’ll have to wait for a while and see. In the meantime you can wash this out of my hair. I can’t sleep like this otherwise I’ll have an entire colony of ants nesting in my head tomorrow morning."

Xena proceeded to rinse Gabrielle’s unkempt mop of hair with the water remaining in the third bucket before they both reclined next to the fire to dry off, Gabrielle’s head resting on Xena’s stomach.

A peace settled over them as they gazed up into the clear night sky, the bard’s eyes somewhat glazed and the warrior feeling more alert than she had done before.

"Anything catch your eye?" asked the blonde.

"Yep. See that one right above us? Looks like Orion. See the three diagonal stars in the middle? That’s his belt."

"Orion didn’t have a belt, you witless bint! Orion…..that’s about as crazy as the story I heard about Callisto being turned into a bear! That’s a domino pure and simple if ever I saw one!"

They continued to map the black sky for a while until they dried off and were about ready to turn in for the night.

"So, did the ritual work at all? Are you sleepy yet?" Gabrielle asked flipping over and leaning on her elbows so she could see her friend’s face.

"Still wide awake I’m afraid." Xena sighed in defeat.

"Hmm…" the bard pondered for a few moments before mischievously grinning down at her partner, eyes glinting in the firelight. "Wanna fuck?"

Xena beamed back up at the blonde and replied "I thought you’d never ask!"

Later that night Xena finally slept as soundly as the dead.



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